A Massachussetts-based company plans to roll out portable displays that attach to ordinary eye or safety glasses.
Micro Optical's Integrated Eyeglass Displays include a concealed electronic device that enables eyeglass wearers to view an image of a video or computer screen at a distance of several feet. A focus adjustment allows the user to place the image at a comfortable distance.
"The glasses provide the user with a convenient, portable means for carrying a display that may be connected to a notebook computer, wearable computer or other electronic device," said Tom Holzel, vice president of sales and marketing at Micro Optical. The system could be used in a variety of commercial, medical and military applications, he added.
Specific applications include hands-free reading of instrumentation by technicians and telephone line engineers, and to complement infantry infrared night vision goggles and gas masks.
The device could also be used as 'invisible monitors' for 'wearable computers' which are being tested by MIT Media Lab, said Hozel.
Electronic devices, such as computers and televisions, generate signals that carries the image electronically to the eyeglass frame. A small liquid crystal is used to generate the image the user sees. The light rays from the liquid crystal display are relayed to the eye through reflectors within the eyeglass lens.
The reflectors fold the optical path and magnify the image so that it can be viewed comfortably. The user perceives an image floating in space at an adjustable focal distance of two feet or more. When the display is turned off, the computer image disappears and the glasses revert to ordinary glasses. The image provides 320 by 240 pixels with eight bit greyscale. The field of view is approximately 10 degrees horizontal.
"Micro Optical's eyeglass lens is unique in that the computer image is brought to the eye. In our patent-pending approach, there are no external lenses or other optical components so that the eyeglass lens can be inserted into an eyeglass frame having ordinary appearance. The electronic circuits are built into the temple of the glasses. Micro Optical intends to conceal all the electronics and optics in the eyeglass frame," Holzel explained.
The glasses were developed with a combination of company resources and funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency through a contract with the US Army Soldier Systems Command.
Initially Micro Optical said its Eye Glass Display (EGD) will be integrated by companies into their existing product lines, not sold to individuals. The displays will be sold initially in the US and then throughout the world. A beta test programme begins next month.
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